US & Global Economic Impact Analysis and Forecasts

Freedonia analysts and economists are sharing their insights on how major events are impacting different parts of the US and global economies.

August Retail Sales Report Shows Opportunities & Challenges for Building Materials Retailers

The recently released retail sales report for August showed that sales by building materials and garden supplies retailers were 15% higher in 2020 than 2019. This is not surprising, given the:

  • surge in residential DIY activity since the beginning of the COVID-10 pandemic, as homeowners took up home improvement projects to fill their time
  • efforts of most state and local governments to label construction as an “essential” industry that was thus exempt from shutdowns and stay-at-home orders, supporting sales of a wide range of building materials and construction projects

Indeed, with home improvement and repair activity remaining elevated and all 50 states allowing construction activity to go on – albeit with appropriate social distancing and health and safety measures – it is expected that retail sales among building materials retailers will continue to be a bright spot going forward.

However, some will note that for a second straight month, overall sales at these retailers declined. While still higher than their 2019 levels, retail sales (not seasonally adjusted) at these stores have fallen more than 5% over the past two months.

There are a number of reasons for this decline, such as:

  • a fall off in DIY construction activity – those homeowners who completed home renovations at the start of the pandemic may decide – instead of moving on to other projects – to enjoy their new decks or home offices
  • the decision to outfit newly renovated homes rather than expand them further – retail sales at electronics, appliance, home furnishing, sporting goods, hobby, and book stores all posted sales gains in August
  • persistently high lumber prices
  • contractors and other professionals in the northern half of the US buying less in anticipation of the end of summer, when fewer construction jobs are started

Will retail sales at building material outlets continue to fall in September, or will the continuance of good weather and rebuilding activity due to the landfalls of Hurricanes Laura and Sally spur a rebound in sales? Freedonia experts will continue to track retail sales by building materials distributors – and other sales outlets – to see how they have been effected by COVID-19 pandemic and other events.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, particularly in the Construction and Building Products. Freedonia also offers an expanding catalog of COVID-19 Economic Impact reports, which highlight how various industries are responding to the current crisis with a comparison to recent recessions. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.